Number of Iowa hunters dwindling

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) – Iowa environmental officials are
looking for ways to stop the slide in the number of hunters, which
is blamed primarily on the declining pheasant population.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the number of Iowa
hunters declined more than 20 percent between 1991 and 2001, which
mirrors a nationwide trend, The Gazette reported Friday.

In 2002, the state issued 189,000 resident hunting licenses, a 9
percent drop from last year, when it was 172,000.

“We are going to be missing a generation of hunters if we can’t
get this turned around,” said Dale Garner, chief of the Department
of Natural Resources Wildlife Bureau.

Garner said the drop in hunters is tied to a drop in the state’s
pheasant population, which biologists attribute to hostile weather
and habitat loss.

The loss of opportunities to hunt pheasants has limited new
hunting recruits, especially younger hunters, DNR spokesman Kevin
Baskins said.

Garner said the loss of habitat and access to hunting grounds
have caused older hunters to give up the sport. Hunting also
competes with other forms of entertainment, notably electronic
media, for the attention of teens and young adults, he said.

The DNR and hunting-relating conservation groups, such as
Pheasants Forever, are focusing on special seasons, workshops and
mentoring programs to promote hunting among teenagers, Garner
said.

High school archery and trap shooting programs are gaining
popularity, he said.

Proceeds from the sale of hunting, fishing and trapping
licenses, and other fees, go into the Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund,
which in fiscal 2010 was $35.7 million, or about 30 percent of the
DNR’s $121.6 million budget.

While pheasant and other small game hunting has languished in
Iowa, deer and turkey hunting and increased sales of applicable
licenses have taken up the revenue slack. However, that could
change because of pressures to reduce the deer herd.

Baskins said a planned reduction in special permits to kill
antlerless deer will start showing up in license sales within two
years.

Unlike hunting licenses, fishing licenses have increased this
decade, from nearly 321,000 in 2002 to more than 325,000 in 2009.
The DNR says fishing in Iowa continues to improve with lake
construction and expansion of walleye stocking programs.

 

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